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What is the Inferior Vena Cava?
You have no doubt either seen news reports or law firm commercials mentioning IVC filters, which are small devices designed to keep blood clots from going to the lungs from the legs. But what, exactly, does the “IVC” portion of the device name mean?
An Incredibly Important Vein
The IVC stands for the inferior vena cava, the largest vein in the body. As veins get closer to the heart they get larger. The inferior vena cava brings blood from the legs and abdomen to the heart, while the superior vena cava transports blood to the heart from the arms and head.
All told, the body’s system of blood vessels stretches for more than 60,000 miles – long enough to travel the globe more than two times.
Many people who are at risk for blood clots take blood thinners in order to reduce the chances they will suffer a stroke due to clotting. But there are some people who can’t safely take this type of medication. In this instance, a doctor will sometimes recommend the implantation of an IVC filter.
This small device has several metal prongs that fan out, making it look somewhat like a spider. A surgeon will implant the filter in the inferior vena cava, usually somewhere close to the groin. The purpose of an IVC filter is to trap any clots that form in the legs so they can’t get to the lungs and cause a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism.
The problem is that these sharp prongs can snap off, traveling through the inferior vena cava and lodging into vital organs such as the liver and heart. While this can be fatal, there are some cases where a doctor will choose to simply leave the piece lodged in the organ because it would be too dangerous to take it out.
To make matters worse, some IVC filter manufacturers allegedly knew about this severe problem and yet chose not to inform the public. As a result, many people injured by IVC filter malfunctions have filed lawsuits in an effort to obtain compensation for the suffering they have experienced.